ETA calls for peace talks, return of prisoners

ETA calls for peace talks, return of prisoners

MADRID – Agence France-Presse
ETA calls for peace talks, return of prisoners

People walk past a wall that reads in Basque: "Basque Prisoner" after a meeting where around 500 former prisoners of the Basque armed group ETA demanded the return of all prisoners of ETA, in the small village of Usurbil, northern Spain, Sunday, March 13, 2016. AP photo

Basque separatist group ETA called on March 27 for peace talks with the Spanish and French governments and the return of ETA prisoners to the northern Basque region.

In a lengthy article printed in Basque newspaper Naiz, ETA’s traditional mouthpiece, the group said “we are not where we expected” five years after declaring a “definitive end to armed activity.”

“A process of dialogue for peace and resolution has not been started, with either the states or the political forces in Euskal Herria (the Basque Country),” it said.

“The consequences of the conflict have not been resolved, the main knot being the situation of Basque political prisoners which still has not been untangled.”

ETA is blamed for more than 800 killings in its campaign of bombings and shootings to create an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.

The group’s last deadly attack in Spain was in August 2009.

In October 2011, it declared a “definitive end to armed activity” but it has yet to formally disband or disarm as the Spanish and French governments demand.

The group wants negotiations on several issues, including the fate of around 400 ETA prisoners, before it fully decommissions its armed wing.

The Spanish and French governments have refused to negotiate with ETA.

“A democratic agreement has not been reached based on Euskal Herria’s right to decide which would put a definitive end to the political conflict,” the ETA statement added, referring to Basque demands for an independence referendum.

ETA criticized Paris and Madrid in the article for failing to offer comprehensive proposals to “satisfy the minimum demands of Euskal Herria and Basque citizens.”

The group traditionally publishes a statement on Aberri Eguna (Fatherland Day), a holiday in the Basque Country coinciding with Easter Sunday.

Opinion polls show most of the Basque Country’s two million people do not want full independence from Madrid and the region already enjoys considerable autonomy.